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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.


Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Pasta, Pork, on October 28th, 2016.

First off, I have to tell you about one of my birthday gifts. I happened to mention to my daughter in law, Karen, about Rachel Ray’s pasta pot, about how it’s an elongated oval in shape so you can plunge the entire length of linguine or spaghetti or whatever long pasta you’re using and you don’t have to stand there over the steam facial trying to stuff the pasta down into the boiling water. Always seems to me like that’s problematical at times. I thought my DIL would want one for herself, since she makes pasta with some frequency for her family. I never thought she’d buy it for ME! But she did – for my daughter Sara (our birthdays are 5 days apart) and for me. Then she went shopping and bought some lovely California olive oil and several packages of long pasta and some high-end tomato sauces and wrapped it all up in cellophane and gave it to us. What a fun gift.


This is Rachael Ray Porcelain Enamel II Nonstick 8-Quart Covered Oval Pasta Pot with Pour Spout, Red Gradient– it’s quite long – oval in shape. Comes in 3 or 4 colors. It’s available at Amazon – click the link.

This new pot is SO great. I just LOVE LOVE the long oval shape and I made pasta last night just so I could use it and try it out. On the far side – the edge – you can barely see it, there’s a pour spout. The handles (can’t see them in the photo, sorry) have soft red covers so they don’t get too hot to handle. The pot is nonstick, though I don’t know that I’ll use it for actual cooking. It’s not a super heavy pot, not like cast iron. I was gleeful as I decided to make some pasta since I consider it a real treat.

I’ve been working on a project – it’s taken me weeks and weeks – sorting through and throwing away most of my old-old recipes that I’ve been collecting (these are clippings from numerous magazines and newspapers, 3×5 cards sometimes, a few from the early internet days and some stray cooking class recipes on which I’d made no notes whether the dishes were good, bad, etc.) since the mid-1960s. Most of them I’d never made, but they were sorted into categories and I’d rarely dip into the folders. Some of the pocket folders I haven’t touched for 5 or more years. Definitely time to do something about them. None are in my recipe software. So I’d dump out a pile of recipes – somewhere between 50-300 in each folder and standing at my kitchen island I’d start a discard pile and a few would go the other way to be input into MasterCook. In the pasta pocket folder containing about 100 recipes I saved out 5 recipes, of which this was one.

creamy_sausage_sauce_pastaThe recipe I decided to try comes from one of the Café Beaujolais (Mendocino, California) cookbooks. Don’t know which one. It called for andouille sausage or linguisa. I had regular Italian sweet sausage instead. And it might be really good with chorizo too. And I added onion which wasn’t in the original recipe. Otherwise it’s mostly Margaret Fox’s recipe. I used less cream, more cheese and maybe a few more slivered peppers.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, was it good. Maybe I was just over the moon at having pasta in any way, shape or form, but I loved the combo of sausage and cream – which is what Margaret Fox wrote in the original recipe, about the affinity of the two; something she’d never tried before until her husband created this dish. I used half a cup of cream for the whole dish which serves at least 3, maybe 4 small servings. So, not too bad. Loved this. I’d definitely make it again. And, it came together in a jiffy.

What’s NOT: not exactly a low calorie or low fat dish, sorry to say. It satisfied all my cravings for sausage and pasta and then some. Seems like I dirtied up a bunch of pots and pans, but really only two; it’s just that they were both big ones.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Creamy Sausage Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe from Cafe Beaujolais, Mendocino (from Margaret Fox, the original owner/chef)
Serving Size: 3

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage — cut into chunks
1/2 yellow onion — slivered
1/2 cup bell peppers — slivered
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup green onion — chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped
8 ounces linguine
1 teaspoon salt — for the pasta water
Save some of the cooking water

1. Set aside some of the chopped green onions and parsley for garnishing.
2. Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add the Italian sausage and brown well on all sides (helps develop flavors). Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, then add peppers and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes until onion is cooked through. Add garlic and red chili flakes and stir for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic brown.
3. Add the white wine and cook for 2-4 minutes to let the flavors marry.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large stock pot with water and add salt. Cook linguine until barely tender (al dente).
5. To the sausage pan add heavy cream, the green onions, parsley and grated cheese. Stir as you heat the sauce through.
6. Drain pasta and add to the meat mixture, stirring to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water as needed to make the mixture fluid. Immediately serve and garnish with the reserved parsley and green onions.
Per Serving: 942 Calories; 61g Fat (59.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 1574mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pasta, on September 25th, 2016.


This post is more about the sauce than the meatball. I’m not even including a recipe for the meatball. It’s the quickest sauce you can imagine. If you have some meatballs (beef or turkey) on hand (or not – it can be served without), this dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

I’d come home with a “doggie bag” of food from an Italian dinner at Filippi’s in Poway (I had their ricotta and mozzarella lasagna with vegetarian red sauce). I’d also ordered a dinner portion of lasagna to freeze at home (because I don’t have that restaurant chain in my neck of the woods). My dinner came with a side of a meatball, which I’d planned on bringing home anyway. This was a big, honkin’ meatball – enough for a dinner for me!

I had polished off the other half of my lasagna dinner (the other full order one is still in the freezer), and had the meatball. What to do with it?

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working on a project or two  . . . detour here . . .

First, I purchased the MasterCook software for my daughter Sara as a gift (her birthday) and my real gift to her was to input ALL of her collected recipes into the program. That took me about 20 hours of time, I’d guess. I drove to Poway (near San Diego, where she lives) and spent an afternoon there getting it all set up for her (I typed in all the recipes here at home, put the “cookbooks” divided by category onto a thumb drive and just uploaded them to her kitchen computer where the MasterCook program lives). Then I spent an hour or two teaching her how to use the software. She has many cookbook recipes that need to be input, so perhaps I’ll go down there sometime to help her with that too.

While I was at it, though, I looked at my own recipe collections . . . I have hundreds upon hundreds of recipes in my MasterCook software. And over the years I’d collected clippings and printed recipes that I had slipped into plastic sleeves and kept neatly in binders – recipes to try (but NOT input into the software). The binders are huge and because of some work I’m having done in my family room, the storage place for these disappeared. What to do? Well, input all those hundreds of recipes into the software, of course. While I’m at it, I’m looking at each and every recipe and wanting to determine will I REALLY make this? I’ve tossed out about 150 recipes, but I’ve input probably 250. Nearly all of them I’ve found online, which makes it pretty easy to grab them to insert into my software program (there’s a really neat online tool that grabs the recipe and a couple clicks of the mouse and it’s input into my software, including the photo if there is one, without hardly having to touch my fingers to the keyboard). I’m down to my last category, Veggies, and I’ll be done. THEN I have a rattan stand thing that holds hanging folders, and in it are several dozen pocket file folders filled with hundreds more clippings, 3×5 cards, notes – those are older recipes. All ones I’ve never made. I’ll do a bigger culling job on them – if I haven’t looked at these in 5 years, how likely will I be to even make any of those recipes? I mean, really? There are a few family recipes there, so I’ll have to go through each folder. I could probably toss it all out, except for those 3×5 cards that I’d probably want to keep, just for nostalgia’s sake.

SO, back to last night’s dinner . . . I ran across the recipe for the Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce that has been in my software (I double-checked) AND it’s here on my blog too. I had all the ingredients to make it – some cream cheese, canned tomatoes, garlic, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, fresh grated Parmigiana and some pasta. Usually the sauce sits some hours before using it – I made a smaller batch, just kind of threw together the ingredients and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I boiled some penne pasta, warmed the meatball in the microwave (cut into slices) and combined it and out onto my plate it went. I had enough to serve to my D-I-L Karen and grandson Vaughan and me the following evening.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this sauce more than once here on my blog – it is such a winner of a recipe. It is also wonderful as a side dish for a summer barbecue – it’s served at room temp – although mine was slightly warm from the hot pasta. I devoured it. SO good. It’s a great thing to take to someone’s house too. Easy to make. It just needs fresh basil, really.

I’ve re-done the recipe below for a quick meal version. If you have some meatballs that need using, throw them in (heat them first, though).

What’s GOOD: this recipe is nothing short of genius. It’s already on my Favs list (see tab at top of my blog, under the photo, far right) which means it met my standard of an outstanding recipe, worthy of making over and over. This version just made it easier to do for a quick meal. I really don’t make pasta very often, but now and then I crave it, don’t you? Make this, okay? Even if you don’t have some left over meatballs.

What’s NOT: absolutely nothing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Meatballs with Quick Pasta & Tomato Cream Sauce

Recipe By: Original from Mary Anne Quinn, a friend of a friend and I’ve adapted it here to serve with meatballs
Serving Size: 4 (average servings)

15 ounces diced tomatoes — canned, with juice
2 cloves garlic — smashed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup EVOO — or less if you’d prefer
4 ounces cream cheese — chopped up some
1/4 cup fresh basil — shredded or sliced
1/2 pound penne rigate
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, for garnish
4 large meatballs (ready made, or make your own), optional

1. In a medium sized non-metalic bowl combine the canned tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, EVOO and cream cheese. Set aside to blend the flavors. (Can be made several hours ahead – just cover the bowl and allow it to sit at room temp for up to 3 hours.)
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt (about a tablespoon per gallon of water). Add pasta and cook to al dente (slightly resistant to the tooth, but without any crunch).
3. Have the cheese and basil ready. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the tomato sauce. Stir around until you don’t see any streaks of cream cheese.
4. If serving with meatballs, warm them in the microwave. Scoop pasta portions onto plates and top with a hot meatball and the grated cheese and basil. Serve. The pasta mixture (with sauce) can also cool to room temp. Serve portions with a heated meatball on top and garnish with cheese and basil.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 25g Fat (48.3% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 99mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on May 16th, 2016.


Oh my goodness, was this stuff delicious. Mostly it’s eggplant (see it on the bottom?) – with tomatoes, almonds, garlic, some good Italian cheese and crispy bread crumbs. Lick the plate good! It’s vegetarian (no protein) and the eggplant is the star of the show.

As you know if you’ve read my blog for a long time, I don’t post pasta recipes very often. Not that I wouldn’t like to, but I convince myself that pasta’s not good for me when I’m trying to eat lower carb. But then, a month or so ago I posted a delicious recipe for linguine with cauliflower and peas. It was SO good too. Now, here I am, a month later and I’m craving pasta.

Rachael Ray prepared this on her show. I’ve been recording her show for awhile now, and I glance at the show notes to see if the recipe looks interesting, or the guests. Half the time I delete before I’ve even pressed the “play” button. This one, though, I watched to get to this recipe. Rachael explained that this is Sicilian (her heritage). And it’s not only prepared a bit differently, but it’s also served differently. The PESTO isn’t pesto like we know it – ground up mushed stuff – no, the “pesto” is just a cooked mixture of fresh tomatoes, herbs, almonds, and garlic. And oil, of course. But first, you prepare the eggplant – Rachael specifically mentioned that you need a very FIRM eggplant, so I sought out one. I used more eggplant than the recipe indicated – I wanted this to be more about the eggplant than the pasta. The eggplant is cut into small bite-sized planks – about 2” long by 1/2” wide, and browned in just a tiny bit of oil, it was just cooked through to the soft, silky stage. The other difference in this dish was the serving – you put the eggplant into the pasta bowl first, then the mixed up pasta on top, then garnished with cheese and toasted bread crumbs.

From the photo, you can hardly tell the pasta was mixed with anything – there isn’t much sauce, as we might be used to. Almonds are toasted (she used whole almonds – I used slivered ones) and set aside, bread crumbs are toasted and set aside, then you cook some fresh tomatoes with olive oil, herbs, crushed red pepper flakes and basil. The almonds are added back in and cooked briefly – THEN you add in some of the cooking water from the pasta – it helps spread the flavors of the tomato almond pesto. Next time I make this I’ll add in more tomatoes. Rachael’s recipe calls for 4 plum tomatoes – I just think it needs a bit more than that.

But, you see, as an American, I probably like the sauce more than I like the eating of the pasta. Italians eat pasta to savor the flavor and texture of the pasta itself. The sauce is an aside! Only there to slightly enhance the pasta. This dish has quite a bit of eggplant in it, however, so since you serve it with the eggplant on the bottom of the bowl, it seems more likely the eggplant is the star of this dish. It sure was for me. I didn’t have any Pecorino cheese – only Parmigiano – but they’re very similar.

And whatever you do, don’t eliminate the bread crumbs. I used panko, and they were toasted in olive oil and they add such a different dimension to the dish. No flavor particularly, but with every bite I got a little bit of crunch. Loved it all.

What’s GOOD: As I said – I loved the whole dish. Love-loved the eggplant. Wanted more of it, so next time I will nearly double the amount – just cuz it was so delicious. The whole dish came together in about 30 minutes, even with the cooking of the eggplant and heating the water for the pasta. I also loved the crunch of the toasted panko crumbs.

What’s NOT: There is a bit of chopping and mincing, and brown this, and brown that, removing, setting aside, etc. But IF you have everything set out and ready when you start, it comes together very quickly.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Pasta alla Trapenese with Almond Pesto and Eggplant

Recipe By: Adapted a bit from a Rachel Ray show, 2016
Serving Size: 4

1 large eggplant — very firm, cut into planks then pieces 2-inches long by 1/2-inch wide (see NOTE in directions)
1 tablespoon salt — to sprinkle on the eggplant
8 plum tomatoes — or vine tomatoes [I prefer double this amount]
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil — divided
1/2 cup panko — or homemade breadcrumbs
3/4 cup almonds — peeled
4 cloves garlic — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves — chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup basil leaves — torn into small pieces
3/4 pound strozzapretti — or other short-cut pasta [I used penne rigate]
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese — freshly grated
1/2 cup starchy pasta water — saved from the pasta pot

NOTE: I prefer more eggplant – the original recipe called for a medium one, but the eggplant shrinks a lot – so use more is my advice. Don’t eliminate the bread crumbs – they give a lovely crunch to nearly every bite.
1. Salt eggplant and let drain on a kitchen towel for 20 minutes; press off excess liquid.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score the tomatoes on the bottom with an X and blanch them for 30 seconds; cold shock and peel. Seed the tomatoes and finely chop. (You may also use canned tomatoes, drained and hand crushed if you prefer.). [If using smaller tomatoes, cut them in half, then scoop out the seeds, then chop – this method doesn’t require the blanching.] Reserve pot of blanching water to cook the pasta.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant until golden brown, turning them at least once, about 10 minutes, remove and reserve. Add another tablespoon of oil to pan and toast breadcrumbs to golden; remove and reserve.
4. Add nuts to the skillet to toast; remove and set aside.
5. Add final tablespoon olive oil and garlic, and stir 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Stir 2 minutes.
6. Add almonds to the tomato/garlic mixture. Stir in chili flakes, basil and EVOO, about 1/4 cup.
7. Turn the heat back on under the pot of blanching water. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water and add it to pesto. Drain pasta and toss with pesto.
8. Arrange the eggplant in shallow bowls and top with pasta. Combine cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over pasta to serve.
Per Serving: 921 Calories; 57g Fat (54.1% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 88g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 1646mg Sodium. (This is high in sodium because of the salt on the eggplant; most of that is wiped off. But Pecorino is also salty.)

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 14th, 2016.


If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time you already know that I don’t post very many pasta recipes. I love pasta, but when my DH was alive (he was a Type 1 diabetic), he/we were convinced that pasta just wasn’t a good dining choice for him – he could never seem to regulate how much insulin to take based on the size of the pasta portion (even though I measured it sometimes). I’m not a fan of whole wheat pasta, so I just don’t order pasta much, and you can count on one hand how many times in the last year I’ve eaten it or prepared it. Sad, huh? I’ve convinced myself that pasta just isn’t a very healthy thing for me to eat (too many carbs). But once in awhile . . . .

So, I was looking for recipes to use up a whole head of cauliflower I’d purchased. I went to Eat Your Books, where I have an account, put in cauliflower, and up came 200+ recipe titles from my own cookbooks. In 15 minutes time, I’d spread out 4 cookbooks and was trying to decide which one to make. This recipe just called my name, although I altered it just a bit. The original came from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She had any number of cauliflower recipes, but the pasta one seemed to be the one I gravitated towards. I decided to add peas (for color mostly). And I didn’t use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – only because I had 2 packages of Gruyere pasta_cooking_pan_on_topbegging to be used for something. And, I added in some olive oil at the end also. Her recipe called for spaghettini, and I didn’t have any of that, so small linguine seemed the closest. I suppose any pasta would do, though.

The cooking technique is quite standard EXCEPT for how you keep the cauliflower and other ingredients hot while you cook the pasta. See the contraption at left – I used my All-Clad deep sauté pan and it nestled on top of the big, wide Le Creuset pot, with room to spare around the edges. That’s what you want/need to keep everything hot. That worked like a charm!

Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and toss in with the veggies, scoop a portion onto a plate or bowl, top with cheese and you’re done. My dinner came together in about 20 minutes time.

What’s GOOD: well, let me just tell you, I gobbled that dinner down in nothing flat, and I went back for a tiny scoop of seconds. I cut the recipe in half and still have a generous portion for another dinner. The cauliflower and pea mixture gave nice texture to the dish, and the butter and oil added in certainly gave it nice richness. Next time I’ll add a few more red pepper flakes – it’s easy to make things too hot with those little things. Do use a generous amount of pepper, too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – this was a very easy meal, providing you or your family won’t miss a big hunk of protein. You probably could add some leftover chicken. Or bacon perhaps. I liked it just the way it was.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Linguine with Cauliflower, Peas, Butter, and Pepper

Recipe By: Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Serving Size: 5

1 whole cauliflower — cut into tiny florets
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup parsley — chopped finely
1 teaspoon coarse mustard
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguine — or spaghettini
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese — shredded, or Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs — optional

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt it to taste, add the cauliflower, and cook for 3 minutes. Select a large bowl or saute pan that will sit on top of the pasta pot, but doesn’t seal around the edges – I chose a saute pan with handles and the handles propped up on each side. Scoop the cauliflower into the bowl or pot and add the butter, parsley, mustard, peas and pepper flakes.
2. Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and once you’ve maintained the high simmer point, set the bowl or pot over the pasta to keep it warm. Watch the pasta pot during the cooking time that it doesn’t boil over. Cook until pasta is al dente.
3. Drain pasta and add it to the cauliflower. Add a generous tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Grind a generous amount of pepper over all, then toss with the cheese and crumbs, if using. Add salt it needed. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 15g Fat (25.6% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 79g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 225mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on April 20th, 2014.


This is the dish I fixed earlier in the week. The first dinner I’d cooked since my darling DH passed away. I haven’t wanted to be in the kitchen much – I cooked a few breakfasts – made a few sandwiches for family, heated some soup from the freezer – but cook from scratch? Zippo. But the desire to cook is starting to come back, so you’ll be seeing some recipes as I make them.

With a semi-house-full of family staying with me, and no more already-cooked food to serve them, I knew I finally needed to get back into the kitchen. First, though, I had to clear my big island of the loads of flowers that were seriously over the hill. I hated throwing them away because they were all so beautiful. Kind people knew how much Dave loved roses, so there were many from the gorgeous sprays sent to our church for the memorial service. I left them intact for a few days, but with no easy way to water big sprays, we pulled the best of the flowers out and used every vase I had in the closet! But a week has gone by since the service, and with vases cluttering the island I just couldn’t seem to think straight about cooking. They’re all gone now and maybe that will clear the teary cobwebs from my eyes so I can enjoy the work in the kitchen, preparing a meal for family. It’s just that my greatest fan, my cheering section, my dear darling husband, is missing. I hope he was smiling down from heaven as he watched me prep and cook. And as I washed the dishes (although after dinner the two guys did the bulk of the dishes, bless them). Dave always said to me that he wondered if I’d do as much cooking if I had to wash my own dishes . . . I don’t think it will make a difference . . . but we’ll see.

Fortunately, this dinner was a big hit, and surprisingly it was also quite easy. I had a gigantic whole pork shoulder roast in the freezer. I should have halved it when I bought it and made two smaller roasts, but I hadn’t done that. So I started with over 8 pounds of pork shoulder. Sigh. That’s one heck of a big piece of meat. I did cut it in half before I began the cooking, and finally ended up dividing it into two separate batches of ragu. The recipe below is for about 3 pounds of pork shoulder (aka pork butt). I got the recipe online – you can find it in several places, but it’s from a cookbook called Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style by Dominica Marchetti.

In a nutshell, the roast is salted and peppered, browned well on all sides in oil, removed, then a copious amount of onions are diced and sautéed, along with some garlic. Then you add fresh rosemary, bay leaves, red wine, canned tomatoes and a pound of Italian sausage. Then the meat is added back in and its simmered low and slow for several hours. The meat gets shredded (like for pulled pork), added back into the sauce and that’s really it. Oh, except for trying to skim off some of the fat. That takes a few minutes of patience. Ideally, make this a day ahead and chill it – then you could get nearly all the fat off the top. Serve on pasta (or rice) with grated Parmesan and I added a sprinkling of chopped Italian parsley. My cousin (the GF one) ate it with rice, and when some went back for seconds, I noticed they used rice also. It’s good with both. It’s intended as a sauce for pasta.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first and foremost. Pork, especially pork with a bone, just develops a whole lot of flavor when it’s slow-braised and simmered. It was very easy to make – it probably could be adapted to a slow cooker, though I merely did it on the stovetop as the recipe indicates. This is a keeper. It also feeds a lot of people. Generally I don’t like to re-freeze meat, but I’m going to HAVE to with this recipe.
What’s NOT: nothing, really. If you don’t have time to cook it on the stove (and tend to it during its several hours of cooking), do try to adapt it to a slow cooker – that way you could start it in the morning.

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Pork Shoulder Ragu for a Crowd

Recipe By: Big Night In by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle Books, 2008)
Serving Size: 12

3 pounds Boston butt roast — (pork shoulder) in one or two pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 large yellow onions — diced (5 cups)
4 cloves garlic — minced or smashed
1 cup dry red wine
7 cups canned tomatoes — chopped, with their juices
4 whole bay leaves (I used Turkish just because I prefer them to California bay leaves)
Two sprigs fresh rosemary (each about 4 inches long)
1 pound Italian sausage — mild (I used half mild, half spicy)
About 3 pounds short pasta, cooked (I used penne rigate, my favorite)
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped (my addition)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese — (or more, as needed for serving)

Notes: If using bone-in pork shoulder, you’ll want to have about 4 pounds. It will be more flavorful if you use the bone-in, but boneless works just fine too.
1. Season the pork shoulder well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, until it is evenly browned. This will take at least 15 minutes. Remove pork to a large bowl or plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions, stirring well to coat with the oil. Saute until translucent, about 10 minutes, adding the garlic during the last minute of cooking. Add the pork back to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high, and pour in the wine. Let it boil for a minute before adding the tomatoes, bay leaves, and rosemary. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
3. If using bulk sausage, break it into little clumps and add it to the pot. If using sausage links, remove the casings and squeeze the meat into the pot, breaking it up well. Give a good stir, cover, and simmer very gently for 2-1/2 hours, turning the roast over at least once so the other half is submerged in the sauce. Test the meat for tenderness (I simmered this closer to 3 1/2 hours), and continue to cook until the meat is fork tender. Remove the meat to a cutting board and shred it. As you shred discard the chunks of fat still attached to the meat.) Return the meat to the pot and heat the ragu through. Adjust the salt if desired. The meat is much easier to shred when it’s hot or at least warm – once cold, you’ll need to slice and chop it – it will still taste fine, but you won’t have those nice shreds of meat. The shredding – if done by hand – will take about 20 minutes or so. Also beware you don’t over cook the meat – at a point when you simmer pork you will have cooked all the fat and juiciness out of it and it will be dry. So taste the meat as you go. If you use a fork to pull off some meat and it doesn’t just almost fall apart, it’s not cooked enough.
4. Serve with cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley. The sauce is fairly “soupy,” so serve in a bowl if preferred. Cool any leftovers, and freeze, if desired, in quart-sized containers.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 28g Fat (59.9% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 111mg Cholesterol; 703mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Pasta, on February 10th, 2014.

linguine_shrimp_mascarpone_sauceIt’s a little hard to tell there’s a sauce on this but the mascarpone is what gives the pasta a shine (a shine in food means either fat or sugar). When this says “sauce” it doesn’t exactly mean it’s a “cream sauce” as in a cooked, thickened sauce made with cream. The mascarpone is the only creamy substance in this and it’s so very easy to just stir it (and toss and toss) into the hot pasta. It just melts. Yum.

There’s something about shrimp and pasta. They’re one of those matches that just work in the culinary world. The palate and taste rule here. Or maybe in this case it’s the mascarpone cheese which provides the bridge between the two. Whatever it is, it works. If you’re looking for something nice to fix for Valentine’s Day, this would be a good one. It satisfies, for sure, with the pasta, and the shrimp (especially if you buy big ones) make it a treat. The dish is NOT hard to make at all – just get everything ready ahead of time.

One unique thing here is the use of sliced garlic. At the cooking class with Phillis Carey, she explained that sliced garlic is her new go-to method. It doesn’t brown as fast (however, you do need to cook it over medium heat – higher than that and the garlic, no matter sliced or not – will burn, and that you don’t want). I have this gadget – Chef’n Garlic Slice. The photo I found at Williams-Sonoma, though the link is to amazon. It’s about $12.00, I think. Anyway, the peeled garlic cloves go into the top, you put the lid on and begin turning the top and thin, perfect slices come out the bottom. Bingo!

The sliced garlic isn’t quite as intense in flavor, either. So you can use a bit more than usual and not overwhelm the dish or someone’s palate.

Anyway, back to this dish. Shrimp are cleaned, deveined and if you choose, slice them in half (through the back so you have 2 perfect halves that curl up so cute when you cook them. Phillis calls them swans when they do that. Okay. Anyway, the shrimp are tossed with lemon zest, salt and pepper while they wait to be called to the pan. First you heat some butter in a nonstick pan (use a big one because everything goes in there eventually). The garlic is added and a tiny bit of red chili flakes and it’s cooked for a whopping minute. Then you add the shrimp and cook that for about 3 minutes, then add the dry white wine (Phillis used Pinot Grigio) and lemon juice briefly. I added some mushrooms to this – because I had them – and because I thought they’d taste good in this dish.

Meanwhile you will have cooked the linguine in very salted water until it’s just barely done but still with a bite (because you cook it some more in the pan). And it’s here where you must save some of the pasta cooking water because it’s used in conjunction with the mascarpone cheese to make the sauce. Lastly you add the pasta to the shrimp mixture, toss and toss and toss, then garnish with lemon zest and fresh basil, salt (maybe, but probably not) and pepper. This dish requires more salt than usual – if you don’t heavily salt the water, then add salt at the end.

Here’s where I detoured – I did add some Parmesan cheese. Just because I can. It added a nice fillip to the dish, I think. But you don’t have to. I also used a whole lot more basil because the original recipe calls for just 2 T of basil shreds. Definitely not enough. If you prefer, you could add Feta cheese to the pasta instead of Parm. That would be a very interesting combo – and a good one, I think. And I also added some sauteed mushrooms too – I cooked them in a separate pan in a little bit of butter, then re-added them to the finished dish to heat them through before adding the mascarpone, etc.

What’s GOOD: You don’t get the feeling (taste) that you’re eating a creamy pasta. This is nothing like using heavy cream, or a carbonara. There is just 1/2 cup in the entire dish that serves at least 3 people. It’s different – loved it with the shrimp. If you’re a bit light on the shrimp, cut them into pieces, but it looks quite pretty to serve it with the cute shrimp curls. Altogether delicious.
What’s NOT: nothing, really. I liked it from the get-go.

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Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp in Mascarpone Sauce

Recipe By: Slightly adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe, 2014
Serving Size: 3

1/2 pound linguine — thin type, if possible
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt — plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper — plus more to taste
1 pound extra large shrimp — (approx 25-30 per pound)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic — thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes — (if you double the recipe, do not double the chiles)
1/4 cup Pinot Grigio wine — or other dry white wine (preferably not chardonnay) like sauvignon blanc or vermouth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
4 tablespoons fresh basil — finely sliced
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated [not in the original recipe]

Notes: Be sure to save some of the pasta water as you use it to thin the sauce at the end. Traditionally, Italians would not serve this with cheese on top, but if you like it, do it! I also added mushrooms (sliced), cooked them in a little butter and added them in just at the end of the shrimp-cooking part.
1. SHRIMP: Trim the cleaned and deveined shrimp, removing tails and slicing each shrimp in half through the back. Add lemon zest to the shrimp and set aside for up to 20 minutes (otherwise, refrigerate the shrimp until you’re ready to cook them).
2. PASTA: Cook the linguine in boiling and heavily salted water until the pasta is al dente, about 6-8 minutes, depending on the type used. Remove a cup or so of the pasta cooking water, set aside and drain pasta in a colander.
3. SAUCE: Meanwhile, melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat (hot high). Add garlic and red pepper (the garlic should just barely get brown at this cooking temperature) and cook for about a minute. Add shrimp and cook until just done, about 3 minutes, stirring often. The shrimp will curl up. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer; cook until the sauce is slightly reduced, about a minute.
4. If you have enough room in the pan, toss in the drained pasta, mascarpone cheese and about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. (If your pan isn’t large enough, pour everything into a large bowl and mix everything there.) Toss well, using tongs, adding more cooking water as needed, until the pasta and shrimp are coated and the sauce looks creamy. As you toss, there should be just a little bit of the thin pasta water/sauce in the bottom. Remove from heat and toss in remaining lemon zest and fresh basil. Season to taste – particularly pepper – and serve immediately with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top if desired.
Per Serving: 657 Calories; 23g Fat (32.5% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 61g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 284mg Cholesterol; 587mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, easy, Pasta, on September 27th, 2013.


Don’t we all welcome an easy and tasty chicken dish you can cook in less than about 30 minutes? This isn’t going onto any taste hall of fame, but it’s good and hearty.

We ate a lot of fish on our travels to the Pacific Northwest. So much so that when we got home I wasn’t craving anything fishy at all, but wanted chicken. I do get tired of it sometimes too, but our first night home I wanted some fowl. We visited Costco for a new stash of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and I bought some fresh mushrooms. Everything else was in the kitchen pantry.

The recipe came from an Oprah show some years ago, when Cat Cora visited the program. What makes this preparation Greek is really just the cinnamon. The Greeks do eat pasta, though, so it’s kind of a cross between Italian and Greek. The original recipe suggests using orzo pasta, which the Greeks do love – almost more so than the Italians. My changes to the recipe were: (1) I added mushrooms just because; (2) I had some Pecorino-Romano cheese that needed using up, so I mixed it along with the freshly grated Parmigiano; and (3) I added some crumbled Feta cheese. I must say that of those changes, it was the Feta cheese (because of the saltiness, I think) that made this dish taste so good. I also added just a tetch more cinnamon too.

The original recipe called for chicken pieces (which probably is more traditionally Greek). I used chicken breasts, so I’ve changed the directions as breasts cook so much faster, of course. If I had chicken pieces, I’d just cook it longer with a lid on to help develop some good flavor in the sauce. Chicken breasts without bones don’t impart a lot of character/flavor to anything, unfortunately. But it was what I had, so that’s what I did. I was too lazy to hunt in my pasta stash for orzo, so I grabbed thin linguine (my go-to favorite pasta, actually). My DH was so happy to have some pasta – we eat very little of it – maybe once a month at most. And yes, it did taste good!

My only caution: don’t over cook the chicken – since it’s cut into strips, it doesn’t take long to cook through. Every minute cooked after that just makes chicken breast meat more dry. Keep that in mind as you brown the pieces, then simmer in the sauce for a short time. Meanwhile make the pasta and combine. Don’t forget that Feta cheese.

When I entered this recipe into MasterCook, it shows a very high sodium content. It must be the tomato paste. I buy a very low sodium brand (Hunt’s I think). The Feta cheese and both Italian cheese add sodium to the dish as well. Watch how much extra salt you add, that’s all.

What’s GOOD: how quick it was to make – it was a satisfying dish. Comforting. As I mentioned at top, since this sauce is based on tomato paste, it’s not overwhelming in other, good flavors. Next time I make it I’m going to use chicken broth instead of water.
What’s NOT: this isn’t going to win any flavor contests, but remember, this is a quick, easy dinner to make in a short time. Your family will be happy.

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Greek Cinnamon Stewed Chicken

Recipe By: Adapted from an Oprah show with Cat Cora
Serving Size: 4

3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast — cut into 1″ wide strips
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic — peeled and minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion — peeled and coarsely chopped [I used a red onion]
2 cups water [next time I’ll use chicken broth]
6 ounces button mushrooms — cleaned and sliced
1 can tomato paste — (6 ounces)
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
1 cup orzo — cooked according to package directions (or other pasta of your choice)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese — grated
1/4 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese — grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped

1. Preboil water with sea salt.
2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. A wet chicken will cause the oil to splatter while the chicken is sautéing. Mix the cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the chicken pieces on all sides with the seasoning.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonreactive, deep skillet over high heat. A 12-inch skillet with sides about 2 1/2 to 3 inches high will allow you to brown all the chicken at once. If you don’t have a skillet large enough, brown them in two batches using 1/2 the oil for each batch. What’s important is that the chicken isn’t overcrowded, which would cause them to steam rather than brown.
4. Add the chicken to the oil and brown for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Turn the pieces using a metal spatula, as they have a tendency to stick to the pan. Remove the pieces when they are well browned on at least 2 sides. Don’t over cook them as they’ll dry out when you cook the chicken in step 7.
5. Mince three of the garlic cloves. Lower the heat to medium-high, and add the onions and minced garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions have softened and are a rich golden brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add about 1/2 cup of the water and scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula or spoon to deglaze the pan, loosening any particles stuck on the bottom.
6. When the water has evaporated, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and remaining 2 garlic cloves, minced.
7. Return the chicken to the pan. The liquid should cover about 3/4 of the chicken pieces. If it doesn’t, add a bit more water. Cover the pot and simmer over medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and thoroughly cooked. If the sauce becomes too thick, it can be thinned with a little more water. Season the finished sauce with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve over orzo, cooked according to package directions, and sprinkle on all the cheeses, then add parsley on top.
Per Serving (I use tomato paste with no salt, so the sodium count is way off): 717 Calories; 17g Fat (21.2% calories from fat); 93g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 209mg Cholesterol; 1714mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Pasta, on July 21st, 2013.


This is a lesson in what to do with left over Artichoke Heart & Lemon Dip. The recipe, posted yesterday, made more than I’d expected – there was about a cup left over. It became the base for this fantastic pasta to which I added chicken cubes, more artichoke hearts (cut in quarters), broccoli and peas.

artichoke_lemon_dipPerhaps you’ll recall reading the post yesterday about the artichoke lemon dip (picture at right) I made for a dinner party we had. Even so, I had a bunch left over. As I began thinking about it, pasta sounded like the best way to use it – my friend Darci suggested it – and I just started thinking about what would taste good with it – fresh broccoli florets, cubed chicken, more canned and quartered artichoke hearts and some frozen peas. It was cinchy easy to make.

First I got all the different additions ready – I steamed the broccoli in the microwave, and I prepped the artichokes too. I buy Trader Joe’s canned (not marinated) artichoke hearts. The two cans I opened (one for the dip and the next day another one for the pasta) had fairly large hearts, and the outer ends were quite tough to eat (I tested one), so on each heart I cut off about 1/2 inch and discarded it.

I put a big pot of water on the boil for the pasta, then got out a pretty large skillet (enough to hold the sauce and the pasta both) and gently began warming the dip. I added a bit of half and half to the dip to loosen it up some. I did not bring it to a boil but just below that. Then I added in the broccoli and artichoke hearts and warmed those through, then lastly I added the chicken and frozen peas, which took maybe 90 seconds to heat through. Once the pasta was done, I drained it and tossed it in with the sauce. Onto a plate, sprinkled it with freshly grated Pecorino cheese and dinner was done.

So, on the recipe below, I’ve given you the ingredients for making HALF of the dip. You could make the full amount, serve part of it as an appetizer and use the balance for the pasta. I didn’t want you to have to go find and print the other recipe, so it’s all contained below.

What’s GOOD: gosh, it was delicious. The artichoke heart dip (made into a sauce) lends a nice, subtle artichoke flavor. It has a nice creaminess to it, of course and it sticks to the pasta very well. I liked the combo of veggies (broccoli and peas and more quartered artichoke hearts). Altogether good!
What’s NOT: nothing, really. It’s so easy to make if you have the ingredients on hand.

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Artichoke Heart, Broccoli & Chicken Pasta with Peas

Recipe By: My own concoction, 2013
Serving Size: 4

7 ounces artichoke hearts — packed in water, drained, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley — chopped
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 small garlic clove — minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt — (taste first, may not need it)
3 1/2 ounces cream cheese — low fat is okay
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup half and half — or more if needed
12 ounces linguine — use thin variety if available
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
14 ounces artichoke hearts — packed in water, drained, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken — cut in cubes
2/3 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice — (taste first)
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (garnish)

Notes: this recipe came to be because I made a dip (Artichoke Lemon Dip). With what was left over, I added some half and half and began making this pasta dish. If you want to alter the sauce, use half cream cheese and half Greek yogurt, which will reduce some of the fat in this. If you want to make the dip, double the quantity of the dip ingredients (without half and half), remove half for the dip, then use the other half, with the half and half in the sauce. No one would be the wiser if you served the dip as a prelude to this pasta.
1. SAUCE: Check artichoke hearts for tough ends – taste one or two at the outer end – if it’s tough, cut off the tough 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each one. In a food processor combine the softened cream cheese and artichoke hearts (chopped up into pieces) with parsley, lemon zest, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Process until thoroughly combined. If time permits, allow to sit for a few hours to meld flavors.
2. Steam the broccoli in the microwave for just a minute or two until the florets are cooked, but not mushy. Set aside. Drain artichoke hearts and check these for tough ends – chop them off if necessary. Cut artichoke hearts in quarters and set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add about 2 tsp salt to water, then add linguine and cook just until pasta is al dente, about 7-8 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet place the sauce mixture over low heat. Add some half and half to thin the sauce and heat until it’s warm. Add the broccoli, artichoke hearts, cooked chicken and heat just until heated through. Thin with more half and half if necessary. Add peas and cook them just a minute or two until they’re tender.
5. Drain pasta and pour pasta into the sauce mixture and stir until the pasta is well coated. Taste and add salt, pepper or more lemon juice, or more half and half if needed. Use tongs or large spoons to place on individual plates. Garnish with grated Parmigiano cheese. If Italian parsley is available, sprinkle some on top.
Per Serving: 676 Calories; 18g Fat (24.0% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 88g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 87mg Cholesterol; 602mg Sodium.

Posted in Lamb, Pasta, on May 27th, 2013.


I’ve re-named this dish slightly from the original recipe over at Food52. I didn’t have orzo pasta for one thing, and I thought describing it as a Ragu might give you a better idea of what it is. And you just need to know that this is fabulous. Absolutely drop-dead fantastic. If you enjoy lamb (ground), and pasta, with Feta, lemon and Kalamata olives, well this is right up your alley.

You’ve heard it here before, that when I see other bloggers use superlatives when they describe a dish, I pay attention. Not only did the originator, Emily at fiveandspice wax glorious about it, but Amanda & Merrill at Food52 did too. That was enough for me to decide to make it. What clinched it was seeing a package of ground lamb at the market and that was that. The original called for fresh spinach. Well, I had arugula instead, but I doubt that would have made much of a taste difference. And, as I mentioned above, I used different pasta (farfalline instead of orzo). The original title is “Greek” Lamb with Orzo. The Greek part is all the Greek-style additions: Feta, olives, lemon juice, oregano, but otherwise it’s an Italian style ragu. The back story of the recipe is just the kind of history I love. The recipe came from Emily’s mother, from a magazine, and it was a family favorite. Here’s what she said: It was also the recipe she sent to each of us [kids], successively, when we needed something easy but impressive to cook for friends in college. It’s still one of my favorite meals, and a wonderful way to easily serve a crowd. Of course, as I’ve evolved, my lamb with orzo has evolved as well, gathering additional ingredients and spices like a glacier gathering stones. . . . I loved that last phrase Emily wrote – gathering ingredients and spices like a glacier gathering stones. I think Emily needs to be a writer . . .

The sauce is relatively easy to make – lamb browned, most of the fat drained, onions and garlic added, then tomatoes, seasonings (including some cinnamon and ground coriander, which are different). The pasta is made and tossed with some oil and lemon juice. When you spoon the ragu on top of the pasta you garnish with Feta cheese crumbles and Kalamata olives. Done. Serve.

What’s GOOD: I refused to put down my spoon until every single morsel was slicked off the plate. Does that tell you how good it was? The other great thing? One pound of lamb makes enough sauce to serve 8, supposedly. Hungry eaters? Well, maybe 6 then, but it’s very filling and comforting food. A definite make-again dish. My DH thought it was fabulous too. It’s going onto my Carolyn’s Favs list, in case that is any additional motivation for you to make this!
What’s NOT: nothing, other than you will dirty up a fair number of dishes, pots and pans in the making of it. Worth it, but then I don’t wash the dishes, my darling DH does. He did complain a bit.

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“Greek” Lamb Ragu on Pasta

Recipe By: Food52
Serving Size: 8

1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion — finely chopped
6 cloves garlic — sliced thinly
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
28 ounces whole tomatoes — drained and smooshed with your hands
14 ounces canned tomatoes — chopped/diced
5 ounces fresh spinach — chopped [I used arugula]
1 pound pasta — orzo suggested [I used farfalline, and I used 3/4 pound]
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice — freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper — to taste
1/4 cup kalamata olives — pitted and finely chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese — crumbled [I used more]

Note: If you have hungry young people, maybe you’ll use all the pasta – I think 3/4 pound of pasta is sufficient for the volume of sauce. I also used more Feta than indicated.

1. In a good sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan, heat the one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Add the lamb and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is nicely browned. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
2. Return the pot to the stove top and add the onion and garlic (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander, and red pepper) and cook until they start smelling extremely toasty and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Then, stir in the smooshed tomatoes.
3. Cook the smooshed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
4. Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you’ll be sprinkling just a touch of feta and olives on, which will add to the saltiness).
5. While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of well-salted water (it should taste like sea water, basically) to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes, usually. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
6. Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and all of the parsley, adding a bit of pasta water at a time, if you feel it needs additional liquid.
7. Spread the orzo out on an enormous serving platter. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives. Pass the dish around the table and relax. A good red wine, on the dry side, is a highly recommended companion here.
Per Serving (you do pour off excess fat, so this is a bit high): 513 Calories; 24g Fat (41.7% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Pasta, on January 15th, 2013.


Oh my. Oh my. Yes, this was SO wonderful. Can’t wait to eat the left overs, which will be gone by this evening. This is a quick dinner, as long as you have all the ingredients (shrimp, heavy cream, chives, parsley, FRESH lemon juice, angel hair and zucchini). If you love pasta, and shrimp – well, this dish is IT.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll already know that I don’t make pasta very often. Even though I love it, it’s not good for my DH (Type 1 diabetic) and probably not all that great for me, either. But sometimes, for a splurge, we have it. And oh, am I ever glad. This dish was downright sensational. And EASY. Our granddaughter Taylor was here, and although she professes to not like fish or shellfish, she ate all but one shrimp on her plate. Her Dad, Todd, loves shrimp, so he had no trouble downing all of his own plus any of Taylor’s discards.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Simply Recipes, a blog I read regularly. As long as I’ve been reading food blogs, Elise’s has been one of my favorites. I love her easy-going writing style and her stories about her family’s recipes. I also love her recipe index. That might not sound so important to you – if you don’t write a blog, but recipe indexes aren’t automatically produced – nobody (that I know of) has written code to create recipe index entries when you post something new. I did use one for awhile, but it’s not meant for recipes and it was dreadfully hard to read. So when I go to Elise’s website I can easily find what I’m looking for. My recipe index here on my blog I created myself using the minimal amount of WordPress coding I know how to do, and I have to update it regularly. I do it about every 2 weeks or so. It’s tedious.

shrimp_cut_upAnyway, back to shrimp and angel hair. The huge shrimp were defrosted first. Then I cut them up into manageable (and different) sizes. Some I chopped. Some I sliced in half lengthwise and then I left one whole for each serving.

These shrimp were huge, and probably not the ideal size for this dish as the whole (or even the half) shrimp required a knife and fork. But the whole and halves looked so pretty on the dish.

Even though there is heavy cream in this, I was almost surprised when I looked at the nutrition analysis to see that to serve 5, each serving has 20 grams of fat. Not too bad considering . . . We had a green salad to go with this, which added a few grams of fat also, but not much. So this dish wasn’t as wicked as you might think. Just so you know . . .

Elise’s recipe didn’t call for zucchini. I added it just cuz I wanted some veggies in it (although to tell you the truth – and you can see from the photo – you can’t even SEE the zucchini). I chopped/sliced up the zucchini in tiny little pieces. I also added some additional seasonings (thyme, oregano). I used fish stock (or you could use clam juice too) because I have some of Penzey’s soup bases in my frig, but Elise suggests chicken stock, which would be fine too. I also added a couple of cloves of minced garlic to the cream as it simmered with the zucchini.  When you simmer garlic in a sauce (not sautéed in oil, for instance) it mellows out. I grated just a bit more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese than the original. And lastly, because I was using Meyer lemons (which are sweeter than regular lemons), I added just a bit more lemon juice. Oh yes, I also used more lemon zest too – half of it I put into the cream as it simmered, and the remainder I added just at the end.

What’s good: oh, everything! I just loved this dish. The lemon, you might think, could overwhelm the dish, or be acidic. It was neither. Even our son-in-law, who says he doesn’t love lemon particularly, thought it was very nicely balanced. I agree. Definitely a make-again dish. Nice for guests too.
What’s not: absolutely nothing at all.

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Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp and Zucchini in a Lemony Cream Sauce

Recipe By: Inspired by Simply Recipes, 5/2012
Serving Size: 5
NOTES: The shrimp I used were really large – 2-inch size would probably be best. If you use very large shrimp as I did, you can chop some of them into pieces, slice some of them in half lengthwise and leave one shrimp whole to place on the top of each serving.

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup fish stock — or clam juice or chicken stock
2 small garlic cloves — sliced, then minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice — 4 T. if using Meyer lemons
2 small zucchini — cut in tiny thin dice
Zest of two lemons, divided use
3/4 pound angel hair pasta — (also called capellini)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp — peeled and deveined
1/2 cup Italian parsley — (loosely packed), chopped, some reserved for garnish
1/4 cup chopped chives — (loosely packed), minced and threads both, some reserved for garnish
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (save a little for garnish)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. In a large pot heat the cream, fish stock, minced garlic, zucchini, half the lemon zest and lemon juice to a low simmer. Simmer gently for 5 minutes or until zucchini is just barely tender. Do not boil or you will boil away the cream.
3. Add the angel hair pasta to the boiling water. It will usually cook in 4-5 minutes – do not over cook!
4. Add the shrimp, thyme and oregano to the simmering lemon cream sauce. Stir well and add a pinch of salt and black pepper. The shrimp should cook in about the same time as the angel hair pasta. Stir and toss the shrimp to make sure they’re cooked through.
5. When the pasta is done, drain (do not rinse) and add to the shrimp cream sauce. Stir it well. Add the herbs, the remaining lemon zest, most of the Parmigiano cheese, the chives and parsley and and let them cook for about 1 minute. If the mixture is dry, pour in a drizzle of additional cream so it’s creamy but not soupy. Taste for seasonings – may need more pepper and a dash or two of salt. Spoon mixture into individual pasta bowls and top with the remaining Parmigiano, parsley and chives. Serve IMMEDIATELY!
Per Serving: 593 Calories; 20g Fat (31.2% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 58g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 265mg Cholesterol; 436mg Sodium.

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